CURMUDGUCATION: Test Prep Abroad

CURMUDGUCATIONThe slightly-cranky voice navigating the world of educational “reform” while trying to still pursue the mission of providing quality education.

Source: CURMUDGUCATION: Test Prep Abroad

Test Prep Abroad

Because I search for a wide assortment of education-related stuff on line, the cookie-bot dance often brings me strange, new advertisements. Like a link to Scoregetter.com, an test prep outfit in Nungambakka, Chennai, which is on the southwest side of India. Just up the street from Pizza Hut.

Right there in the world.
Just up the street from Pizza Hut

I wish I had saved their ad, but some copy from their website gives you a taste of Scoregetter’s almost-but-not-quite-there appeal:

A student, for us, is not a client, but a chance to showcase our proven ability all over again. We have, over the years, understood what it takes for students to achieve a good score.

Scoregetters will help you prep for any of the major standardized tests in Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, and the USA. Germany’s appeal is “zero tuition fees” while New Zealand “has a global recognition as a contributor of excellent education. It has a progressive education system with many state of the art conveniences.” So there’s that. The USA is, of course, the “dream destination for higher studies.”

And if that sounds appealing, you can see about opening a ScoreGetter franchise of your own.

Of course, there are many folks working the same industry. In fact, Chennai also hosts the unfortunately named CrackSAT. There is no indication on their website, where, exactly, the crack is involved, not even on their FAQ page where we learn that the SAT “is a test that has to be taken for admission into any undergraduate degree Program in America. SAT is an aptitude test administered by The College Board in order to have a standardized format that measures the skill sets required for entering a college.”

Also, if you’re wondering about taking the ACT, CrackSAT says “The basic premise on which the test must be chosen is the requirement of the college that the student plans to apply to.”

None of this is “All your base are belong to us,” and my point here is not to pick on non-native English speakers. It’s just one more kind of sad face of the test prep industry.

That industry goes back away, with Stanley Kaplan founding his test tutoring company in 1938 (in his parents’ basement in Brooklyn), when he was nineteen years old. Kaplan was rejected by medical schools because he was Jewish; he never forgot. Kaplan was an outsider beating on the SAT door for decades until the 1980s when the Federal Trade Commission itself established that Kaplan really could raise scores; soon after, the SAT folks invited him to come speak. Why the change of heart? Perhaps they realized that SAT test prep was hope, and the more people had hope, the more people would take the test. Fun fact: Kaplan was more recently been bought by Washington Post, Inc, for whom they were a huge money maker.

Reuters has covered at considerable length how China’s massive test prep industry has pushed the SAT folks hard with security assaults. New Orient is just one of the huge companies making a bundle by cracking the SAT code and leaking test materials and just generally committing fraud.

None of this should be a surprise. When you reduce the process of determining whether or not someone has a future as a college student and has the potential to grow and develop in an environment of higher learning while maturing as both a person and a scholar– when you reduce all that to a single score churned out by a mass-produced test, it seems inevitable that people will crop up who are more focused on gaming that single score. No test prep– domestic or foreign– offers to make okay students into better students, to make them wiser, smarter, or more packed with potential. They all just promise to get a better score. It’s just a little more obvious when the company can’t come up with the smooth native-English polish and spin of American marketing.

That is changing. One of the big dogs (if not the biggest) in international US test prep is Veritas Prep, a company founded in 2002 by two Yale grads who hatched the plan in their enterpreneurial planning class. Veritas is now in twenty-two countries, prepping for every under grad and grad school test an aspiring US-bound student could need to pass. Their SAT prep is aimed at students who want to be in the top 10%, and their selling point is a raft of tutors who are almost all members of the SAT perfect score club. For just $5,400, you can have 36 hours of their time and attention.

You may be reading this and thinking, “Yeah. So?” And I get that– we have become so fully adjusted to the notion that a single standardized test should somehow be the arbiter of a student’s future worth, to the point that we have made the SAT one of the gatekeepers to entering this country. How did we become so resolutely focused on the wrong thing that we have managed to export our twisted vision across the globe, like bad, mass-produced pizza.

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